Encouraging independent learners

Encouraging independent learners

I’ve been back into school again today carrying on setting up my classroom after a week away. I have to say, walking in it felt like I was much further along than I remembered, which is positive. It was the first time I’d walked in and thought “this actually looks like my classroom.” That was a good feeling.

Something I’ve been focusing on a lot whilst planning out my classroom is making it easy for children to become more independent learners. I’ve been warned that, coming up from Year 3, they are still getting to grips with the whole independent learning thing so it’s something I really want to crack with them this year.

Of course, as we are still in summer holidays I cannot say whether these ideas have worked or not yet but I’m hoping I’ll be able to update you at the end of the Autumn Term saying how positive they have been!

1) Books readily available

I’m not sure if this is a given in every school but I remember when I was at primary school, our exercise books were kept away from our reach. I’m not sure why this was, but I can remember only one child was chosen to go into the stock cupboard with the TA to bring them out. Sure, this was fifteen years ago and attitudes to learning have, thankfully, changed in some areas. I’ve bought transparent boxes for my books and they are clearly labelled, stored at a child-friendly height so children can access them whenever they want. This also means they will be readily available for parents and SLT if required.


This concept carries over to the self-differentiation strongly promoted by my school. They will need to choose their work from the Bronze/Silver/Gold trays- this is monitored and guided where appropriate but generally, children choose their level well and regularly challenge themselves. This encourages them to think for themselves and build up their independence further.

2. Labelling stationery

I’ve read differing opinions on this but I’ve decided to label some items of stationery with my children. I haven’t done this with pencils, but rulers and pens have had their names written on with a sticky label. It took a a little time but I decided to do this as I believe it encourages responsibility. So many times in the past I’ve had tables magically lose numerous items and they’ve all blamed it on each other. This way, they have their own items and it is their responsibility to look after them. Whether it works, I have yet to find out, but I believe having responsiblity over their own things will encourage independence.


3. Stopping the constant hands up

This isn’t to say I will never let children put their hands up or not help them if they’re stuck. It’s about encouraging them to try other means instead of asking me straight away. Apparently, when last year’s Year 3s came up to Year 4 they would ask if it was OK to turn the page…I want my class to know there are other options before asking me. We use the slogan “C3B4Me” which basically means when you have a question, first ask yourself, then ask a friend, then use resources in the room and then, if all those haven’t worked, ask an adult. I think it’ll take some work but hopefully they will begin to become more independent in solving their problems.




4. Finally, make sure resources are available

It’s kind of a repeat of my other points but just making sure that resources are available at child friendly heights. I wanted to make sure my displays were as interactive as possible and anything which may help children with their work is there. For example, number squares, word mats, dictionaries- they are all available and I will be encouraging children to just go and get them if needed. Again, the trick will be allowing children to make the decision about the type of resource they need but the more they do it the more independent they will (hopefully) become!

I hope this post helps you with ideas for your classroom although I’m sure I’m just preaching to the choir! If you have any other tips for encouraging independence in the classroom please share them in the comments below.

Kate 🙂


One thought on “Encouraging independent learners

  1. I found your last point about readily available resources to be so true, I’m just starting my first year as a high school teacher but have done many placements over the past 4 years. With high school kids I believe they reach that stage of being lazy and not bothering (hormones) and so use the “I don’t know what to do” phrase as an all too common excuse, and so have found having resources up on the projector etc. to be a good resolution to not wasting your time explaining it again when you know fine well they just haven’t listened. This use of extra resource has definitely minimised this problem once you prompt them to use it, they suddenly “know what to do” lol 🙂 and I’ve just realised it also encourages independent learning so thank you for that I’ll put it in my lesson planning and pretend it was intentional haha!

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